Conrad Murray: Michael Jackson case and celebrities' doctors
Prosecutors say they'll file charges Monday against Dr. Conrad Murray in the death of pop star Michael Jackson. The case focuses attention on how celebrities like the late Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Brittany Murphy may get special treatment from physicians.
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That will, in turn, spotlight the medical procedures in determining the use of other drugs, the history of the patient in the use of such drugs, the databases that contain such information, and the interconnectivity of such databases.Skip to next paragraph
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Murray gave Jackson powerful sedatives
Murray prescribed the powerful anesthetic propofol, which is usually administered only in hospital settings. He told police on Friday that he gave Jackson the sedative and other sedatives but nothing that should have killed him.
And, like other high-profile trials of celebrities, such as O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson himself in 2001, this episode could test the fairness of the legal system in such matters as jury selection and jury sequestration.
“When and if this goes to trial, the D.A.’s office is going to have difficulty assembling 12 jurors who have not seen Michael Jackson waste away before our eyes,” says Elizabeth Kelley, a Cleveland-based criminal attorney. “And virtually everyone in the country has already heard about his various addictions.”
The D.A.’s interest in this case has been fueled precisely because of Jackson’s fame, say Ms. Kelley and several others.
A message of deterrence
“Clearly, the D.A.’s office wanted to send a message of deterrence,” says Kelley. “If Dr. Murray were an ordinary doctor and Michael Jackson just an ordinary person, I doubt whether he would have had such an interest in this case. But there was certainly public pressure.”
Among the many lessons already taken from Jackson's death and the drug-related deaths of several other celebrities – Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and, possibly, Brittany Murphy – is that big money can effect and perhaps corrupt the doctor-patient relationship, experts say.
“We’re learning that celebrities, like the rest of the population, struggle with addiction and sometimes fail to take care of themselves,” says Jessica Levinson, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School. “Unlike the rest of the population, celebrities may have easier access to doctors willing to give them what they want.”
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